Thank you to all who tuned in to Tuesday's Mark Steyn Show. I'm happy to say we trounced Piers Morgan in the ratings.
~Boris Johnson, it seems, is determined to hang on. Tonight I chanced to see, on the one hand, his father, apparently breezy and unperturbed. On the other hand, a senior Tory backbencher told me that, were another confidence vote to be held, Boris would win the support of fewer than sixty Conservative MPs, with over three hundred voting against him.
I don't really have anything new to say about this failed prime minister because, in the third of a century since I first met him, he has been, in the turbulence of a constantly changing world, eternally unchanging. Here is what I wrote about him upon the occasion of him taking office as PM:
Is he a nice person? Well, he's left an awful lot of human wreckage in his wake. Some of the women he's used and discarded seem to me, without naming names, to be sad and profoundly damaged from their brief intersection with his wandering zipper. His latest squeeze seems likely to be moving into Number Ten without benefit of clergy - a first for the Tories and a sign of how desperate they are after years of letting all the sober, serious, earnest types turn their party into a laughingstock.
What does he believe in? Other than himself, not terribly much. About a decade ago, I was in London for a couple of days and had lunch with him and Stuart Reid at a favorite Italian restaurant. Stuart was the deputy editor who did all the hard grind at the Speccie, while Boris was the great fizzing impresario fronting the operation - a business model he transferred successfully into his mayoral regime, and will no doubt be trying again in Downing Street. He was going on the BBC's "Question Time" that night and was worried that he didn't have anything sufficiently arresting to say, so asked if I had any tips. I gave him a few thoughts on the passing scene, and he considered them not in terms of his own public-policy positions (if any) but in terms of attitudinal cachet. Finally, I said, "Why don't you really stir them up and put in a word for social conservatism?"
"You mean abortion and all that? Oh, God..," he sighed, and ordered dessert.
If that seems to be (for self-interested reasons) his most firmly drawn red line, don't nevertheless overstate his ideological flexibility. Like Boris, Theresa May schemed and maneuvered for decades to reach the top spot ...and, by the time she pulled it off, she'd spent so much time and effort on the scheming and maneuvering that she had no idea of what to do once she got there. Boris is likewise invested in himself, but, having reached the finial of Disraeli's greasy pole, he doesn't intend to be just the latest seat-filler. Mrs May wanted to be prime minister; Johnson wants to be a great and consequential prime minister.
So much for that. That was July 2019. Six weeks later came the first of what would become an avalanche of ministerial resignations:
Today Her Majesty's Government suffered its first resignation since Boris Johnson took over as Prime Minister. The Minister for Universities and Science quit, and is leaving Parliament. His name is Jo Johnson. Any relation? Why, yes. He's Boris' brother. In the normal course of events, no normal person knows who the Minister for Universities is, or indeed that such a post exists, or, if aware of this grand office, what the chap who holds it does all day long: He ain't a heavy, he's his brother - that's all. But the junior Johnson, a Remainer, has walked out on the senior Johnson, a Leaver, so it's the biggest thing since Cain fired his Secretary of State for Sheep-Herding. Boris was his brother's keeper, but he couldn't keep him. So the Remainer leaves, putting a question mark over whether the Leaver can remain.
Boris elevated his sibling to the House of Lords, since when Jo Johnson has been entirely forgotten - and within three months of that devastating loss the older Johnson had won an amazing victory:
Whatever one feels about Boris Johnson (and almost any one who's had any truck with the man has, if he's honest, highly mixed views) today's election is a spectacular triumph for him. On the day Andrew Scheer, the Canadian Tory leader, announced he would be stepping down, the UK Tory leader led his party to their biggest share of the vote in half-a-century and swiped seats held by Labour since 1935 - from Blythe Valley to Bishop Auckland. Both Scheer and Johnson are unprincipled opportunists, but the latter is a fighter who knows how to return the ball and swat it down the opposition's gullet.
And so he did. And then he utterly squandered an eighty-seat majority. As I concluded that post-election piece:
It would be nice to think that the Conservative Party might now think it safe to offer a bit of conservatism. But that would be too much to hope for...
And so it proved.